Jesus reveals his glory

John 2:1-11

22 January 2012

St James, Woodley

Morning service, pulpit swap


In this week of prayer for christian unity, what would you say is our greatest need? What one thing would re-invigorate and re-energise the church the most? What is our deepest need as God's people here in Woodley?

Well, there are many possible answers to this question, and I'm sure there are some strong views represented here: we need to be filled with the Spirit; we need to express Christ's love more effectively; we need forgiveness; we need more faithful Bible teaching. And these are all true.

But, it seems to me that the one thing we need above all else is simply a better view of Jesus' glory. If only we saw the glory of Jesus Christ more clearly, it would transform our hearts, transform our churches and transform the world.

Now, we can debate about that, but what is clear is that Jesus' glory is a huge theme in John's gospel—Jesus himself talks about it almost twenty times. And the reason I mention it is that it is the context into which our reading this morning fits. Look at verse 11 of John chapter 2 at the end of our reading, This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.ref

In performing this sign—the first of his recorded miracles—Jesus intends for us to see his glory. So how does this sign reveal Jesus glory? Well, there are a few different ways, but I've picked out three in particular.

Jesus' glory is revealed in his Timing

First, Jesus' glory is revealed in his timing.

Have a look at this strange little dialogue Jesus has with his mother. Jesus' mother comes to him in verse 3 and says They have no more wineref.

Now, it was the bridegroom's responsibility to provide the wine for the wedding guests. The celebrations might last several days, and to run out of wine was at best a serious social gaffe, and at worst might result in a claim for damages from the bride's family.

So this is quite a serious matter, but it's not at all clear what Mary wants Jesus to do about it. And Jesus' response is puzzling, Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet comeref. What can he mean? How is this a response to his mother?

Well, in John's gospel, when Jesus talks about his "time"—literally his "hour"—he is always talking about his death. In chapter 7, the crowd tried to seize him, but no-one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet comeref. The same thing happens again in chapter 8. Not until chapter 12, at the start of Holy Week, does Jesus finally announce, The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorifiedref. And chapter 13 verse 1, Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Fatherref. So this tension builds up through the gospel: the time hasn't come... the time hasn't come... the time hasn't come... now the time has come! Now Jesus is going to do what he came for; now he is going to die.

The point Jesus is making when he distances himself a little from his mother and her request is this: I have a plan, a plan that my Heavenly Father has given me. I am not under your authority, but under His authority. I am working to his agenda, not your agenda. In short, I am not ready to reveal myself publicly yet.

This is Jesus' glory: fundamentally he came to die. He didn't come only to perform a few miracles, to heal a few people, to give some profound teaching. Right from the outset, it was his intention, at just the right time, to die for the world. If our understanding of Jesus doesn't emphasise his death then we've entirely missed the point—we will never know his glory unless we know his death.

So Jesus' glory is revealed in his timing—at just the right time he lays down his life for sinners. He lives his life with his death in view.

Nevertheless, at this wedding, although Jesus won't yet share his identity publicly, he still consents to work a private miracle. And Mary puts her faith in him when she instructs the servants, Do whatever he tells youref.

Jesus' glory is revealed in his Transforming

Next, we see Jesus' glory revealed in his transforming. The heart of this sign is a transformation: water changed, water transformed into wine.

Out of all the miracles Jesus did, when John selected his handful to write about, why did he choose this one? What is the deep significance of this miracle of transformation? Well, he gives us some clues.

First is his little side comment in verse 6, Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washingref. Why does he tell us about the ceremonial washing? Is it just a bit of historical colour or something more significant?

Second is the context of chapters 2 to 4. The whole theme of these chapters is renewal. The temple has become corrupted so Jesus clears it out and promises to recreate it. Nicodemus cannot find life through his religious efforts, but Jesus promises him new birth. The Samaritan woman's water could never ultimately satisfy her, but Jesus offers her living, satisfying water. These chapters are all about renewal and transformation.

Third, wine in the Old Testament is overwhelmingly a symbol of joy and blessing. Psalm 104:15, wine gladdens the heart of menref. And through Joel, God says of the day when he will restore his people, In that day the mountains will drip new wineref. Wine is a symbol of joy and blessing.

As an aside, I confess that we Baptists have a bit of a funny relationship with wine. I don't know your practice, but at communion we tend to share normal loaves of bread and non-alcoholic grape juice. It has been observed that we have taken the yeast out of the wine, where you might argue it belongs, and put it into the bread instead. Well, whatever the rights and wrongs of this, the Bible's view is that wine, properly enjoyed, is a symbol of joy and blessing.

Now, if we come back to this passage armed with these clues, perhaps we can see more clearly what this sign is signifying.

At this Jewish wedding the wine has run out. This symbolises the spiritual barrenness of first-century Judaism. The joy of worship has run out, leaving only endless ritual and formalism. The expectation of fulfilment has expired, leaving just the drudgery of religion.

These six stone water jars show us the extent of the ritual formality that they had fallen in to—they seem to be going well beyond what the law actually required in terms of ceremonial washing.

So Jesus commands that these jars be filled to the brim, verse 7. The old religion is filled up and completed. And then he makes the transformation: this vast quantity of water for ritual washing is transformed into wine that gladdens the heart.

And not only is there a huge amount of it, it is better than anything that has gone before! Verse 10, Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till nowref.

Jesus' glory is revealed in his transforming. He transforms formality into freedom, religion into gladness, the pious po-faced religious service into a wedding party!

This was prophesied by Isaiah when he was talking about the messiah to come, Isaiah chapter 25 verse 6, On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine—the best of meats and the finest of winesref. Jesus is fulfilling this prophecy. He is the transformer.

Let me ask you, has your faith become joyless? Perhaps it has become an empty formality, a sterile ritual. There's no gladness in your experience; you are just going through the motions day after day. It's more effort than exaltation. Perhaps you once knew the sheer joy of salvation, but that's now just a distant memory. Or perhaps you've never really found joy at all.

Well, Jesus came to transform all that.

If your faith is joyless, then you need to get to know Jesus better. You need to get to know the man who, as the first thing he did in discipleship training, was take them to a week long wedding party.

We need to know the power of this man to transform our lives. He didn't make a little sip of nasty plonk: he transformed a vast quantity of water into a vast quantity of fantastic wine. We should not be content with a feeble experience of faith—Jesus is into abundance, and he gives us the really good stuff. He transforms the mundane into the glorious.

If your experience of faith is less than glorious, then I urge you to get to know Jesus better. Ask God every day to show you his glory in transforming your life.

Jesus' glory is revealed in his Transferring

The third way this sign points to Jesus' glory is a little less obvious: Jesus' glory is revealed in his transferring.

At the end of this account is a lovely little gospel picture that it's very easy to miss.

Verse 9, the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realise where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now."ref

But he hadn't, had he? He'd been hopeless.

The bridegroom had failed. He hadn't done his job; he'd let the wine run out. When he gets summoned before the the master of the banquet, imagine how he's feeling. This great occasion has been ruined because of his failure. For years to come he'll face ridicule and shame from his wife's family. Imagine arming your mother-in-law with this ammunition! The whole community will know about it; he'll never be taken seriously again. And now he's been summoned to his first telling off.

So the groom is bracing himself, preparing his excuses. But, unbelievably, at the moment when the bridegroom fears judgement, he doesn't get a strip torn off him. He gets praised, and lavish praise at that! Praise, fundamentally, that he didn't deserve.

Only the servants and the disciples know the truth. As far as the steward and the guests are concerned the bridegroom has done a good job. Not just a good job: a fantastic job!

We don't see, do we, Jesus popping up and saying, actually, I did all this, I saved the day: just give this idiot what he deserves. No, Jesus is content to let this groom take the glory. Jesus is happy to transfer the praise and glory that should be his and make it the groom's.

And that's what he does for us, isn't it? It's a super little gospel picture.

Every one of us is like this bridegroom. Our lives are failures: we've failed to do what we ought to have done. Our spiritual resources have run dry. We've got nothing to offer anyone, least of all God. Like this hapless groom, when we get summoned, we rightly face condemnation.

So what's going to happen when you and I face the Judge of all things to give an account of our lives? I'm not looking forward to him judging me on my record. I'm well aware of my failures.

It would be a surprise, wouldn't it, for any of us when we face up to God, and he looks us over, and checks his records—it would be a shock if what we heard were: that was a life well-lived; that was a glorious life; well done, good and faithful servant!

That's certainly not what we deserve. But, like the bridegroom, that is what will happen if we invite Jesus into our lives. Jesus reveals his glory by transferring his glory into our lives. When we stand before the Father, he doesn't see our sin, he sees his glorious Son. What Jesus did for this bridegroom is a lovely gospel illustration.

Are you a failure? I am! Without Jesus I would be utterly terrified to be held accountable by God. But if we make Jesus our Lord he clothes us in his glory: He transfers his glory to us and takes away our failure.


So here is Jesus revealing his glory. The glory of his timing: he came to die at just the right time for sinners like you and me. The glory of his transforming: he transforms empty, dried up religion into joy-giving abundance. The glory of his transferring: like this hapless bride groom, he transfers his glory to us; he clothes us in his righteousness.

Do you agree that we need a bigger vision of his glory?